Wang Ling's family fled to the countryside after his uncle, Wang Yun, was executed in 192 for fomenting Lü Bu's assassination of Dong Zhuo. Later he was declared xiaolian, a crucial nomination to be considered for civil service appointments, and became the Grand Administrator of Zhongshan (中山太守). His excellent public service was noticed by chancellorCao Cao, who moved him into his office.
In Cao Cao's army, Wang Ling engaged in several battles with Eastern Wu. As the Inspector of Yanzhou, he attacked Sun Quan under Zhang Liao. His victory led to his promotion to General Jianwu (建武将军). In another battle against Eastern Wu, he rescued the besieged general Cao Xiu. He was promoted to General of Chariots and Cavalry (车骑将军) after a major victory against Quan Cong.
In the second year of Cao Fang's reign, Wang Ling was appointed Minister of Works, while his nephew Linghu Yu (令狐愚) became the Inspector of Yanzhou (兗州刺史). Wang Ling lost faith in Cao Fang's ability to rule after Sima Yi's coup d'etat in the incident at Gaoping Tombs succeeded in turning the emperor against Sima Yi's rival, Cao Shuang. As a result, Wang Ling conspired to replace emperor Cao Fang with his uncle Cao Biao (曹彪). The conspiracy suffered a setback, however, when Linghu Yu died of an illness. The plot was discovered and Sima Yi led an army to Wang before he could prepare himself for a defense. After Wang surrendered to Sima with the promise of a pardon, he was forced to commit suicide, and his family members and associates were condemned to family annihilation.